Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Home Up

Frank Edwards Pt 6

 


Aftermath of Edwards' dismissal - Appeal to congress of INTO

AFTERMATH OF EDWARDS’ DISMISSAL
After Edwards' dismissal, Waterford Corporation held a special meeting and agreed, unanimously, a resolution of loyalty to the bishop. It was quickly followed by similar resolutions from the Ursuline Convent, Ballybricken Church outdoor collectors, De La Salle Pioneers and Past Pupil's Union, Mercy Convent Children of Mary, Mount Sion Sodality, Waterford Legion of Mary, etc., etc.[1] Commandant Cronin of the League of Youth (The Blueshirts) also issued a statement on the issue and called on all its members to 'uphold Christian principles, and to oppose strenuously and uproot Communism.'[2] However, in an extraordinary development the Dungarvan Urban District Council, by eight votes to six, supported its chairman in refusing to accept a resolution pledging allegiance to Most Rev. Dr. Kinane, Bishop of Waterford. The dismissal of Mr Edwards, the Waterford teacher, was mentioned during the discussion, a member remarking that he believed Mr Edwards had been victimised.[3]

  The Waterford News ceased reporting on the case and considered it closed. In its issue of 18 January 1935 under the by-line 'Local & District Gossip' it printed

Although we regret that, so early in his career, Mr. Frank Edwards, a popular young man of brilliant attainments, has been faced with the ordeal known to the Dublin press as 'the Waterford controversy,' we should like to say that the position is such that one particular misunderstanding should be removed from the mind of anybody who happens to have misinterpreted this aspect of the points at issue. This is the aspect as to the respect in which His Lordship is held by his whole flock. We should like to say that His Lordship the Bishop has no more loyal and faithful body in his diocese than those who are supporters of the Government. They acknowledge in the fullest possible manner his jurisdiction over them, and accept his teaching on faith and morals unreservedly.

  We have received from Mr Frank Ryan, with a request for insertion in the 'News', a copy of his letter published on Wednesday in the 'Dublin Press.' Owing to the pronouncement made by the Bishop, addressed to all under his jurisdiction in this diocese, and binding on all Catholics, we are precluded from publishing Mr Ryan's comments. We think that the Bishop's pastoral letter should be received in the proper spirit by all. It was clearly intended to be the final pronouncement in this controversy.[4]

The controversy had now become a national one and a war of words exploded in the national press. The Irish Times was to the forefront and published daily reports from its Waterford reporter.

On Saturday 26 January 1935, a private meeting of Catholic teachers in Waterford took place. A resolution was passed expressing loyalty and unswerving obedience to the Bishop

as guide and teacher in matters of faith and morals. When Mr Frank Edwards, the dismissed teacher, endeavoured to address the meeting from the platform there were repeated interruptions, and for several minutes pandemonium reigned. After the resolution had been adopted, Mr Edwards, who was accompanied by members of the Republican Congress group, left the Town Hall.[5]

  The following day saw a massive show of support for Edwards when eight hundred members of the IRA, marching four deep and accompanied by two pipe bands, took part in a torchlight parade and two thousand people subsequently attended a republican meeting on the Mall. Contingents of the IRA were present from Waterford city and county and from the adjoining counties of Wexford, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork. A large force of Civic Guards was on duty but the meeting passed off without incident.[6]

  This meeting went ahead despite a warning from the bishop read at all Masses that morning but the most extraordinary fact about the meeting was that Mr Patrick Kinane, the bishop's cousin, was billed as one of the speakers. In the event, the meeting chairman read a letter from Mr Kinane in which the latter apologised for his inability to attend and stated that he stood firmly for the IRA and its policy, as outlined and recently expounded by the Army Council. The principal speaker was Maurice Twomey, Chief of Staff, IRA. Tom Barry, the West Cork republican leader, also spoke.

  The public controversy petered out eventually and the Gárdaí and detectives were withdrawn from Mount Sion School. They had patrolled the school and grounds for the previous three months. Edwards was given another opportunity to argue his case, this time in Dublin. On 2 February 1935, the Irish national Teacher's Organisation (INTO) executive met and the following is the minute of the section of that meeting which concerned itself with the Edwards dismissal:

A report was submitted of the action taken since the last meeting in connection with this case, including an account of the interview with the Bishop of Waterford. The Secretary reported that all the members of the Executive had approved of the action taken by the President and himself in advising Mr. Edwards to sign the document presented to him by the Bishop. A very long discussion took place in regard to the case, but no action was taken.[7]

APPEAL TO INTO CONGRESS
The committee considered the case closed but Edwards had one final chance to speak. At the INTO Congress, Edwards, as a delegate, was allowed to speak on the committee's report concerning his dismissal. He was the only speaker and he was greeted with some applause as he rose.

I would like to say that in coming to you, I am not coming before you as a pathetic case looking for sympathy and trying to convert you to my political views. I will state my side of the case … I have been dismissed for my political opinions.

At this point a delegate interjected; 'You should be thrown out. You have no political opinions.' This delegate was later escorted from the hall after a third interruption.

Edwards continued

I have been dismissed because of my political opinions expressed outside the school. The Bishop admitted I never introduced political opinions inside my schools ... therefore my dismissal raises an issue of whether a teacher has the right to hold political opinions.[8]

   He went on to tell of his attacks on local slum landlords, and of Brother Flannery's warning to him. He said that at that time, although his support for the Republican Congress was known, he was given the Confirmation class. 'Why did they do that if they thought I was teaching anti-Catholic doctrine?' he asked, alleging that the Bishop's condemnation of the Republican Congress was done to provide a reason for his sacking. At the conclusion of his speech, Edwards said 

I am very sincere in appealing for a backing not merely because I have lost my job, but it is more than that. Liberty to hold political opinions outside the school. This is at stake. I would ask you to reconsider the decision of the C.E.C. [committee] advising me to surrender that right to hold political opinions. It is not on the side of the manager but on the side of the teacher that the C.E.C. should come in, in such a case. If I did sign that document, I would feel that I had betrayed not only my own convictions but the INTO in general. I thank you very much for the hearing you have given me.[9]

The paragraph in the committee report outlining the steps taken by the executive was then put to Congress, and agreed to, only one delegate dissenting.

   After the dismissal, Edwards went to Dublin where he helped Frank Ryan edit the Republican Congress. He got a month's work in a school in Sligo and then got a job digging ditches in Dublin for a pipe-laying company. On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he went to Spain where he fought with great courage against Franco's fascists. On his return to Ireland, he eventually secured a teaching post in Mount Zion Jewish School in Rathgar, where he taught until his retirement. He had completed his journey from Mount Sion to Mount Zion. He died on 7 June 1983 and his remains were cremated at Glasnevin. In a graveside oration Peadar O'Donnell said

I think Frank Edwards will become a legend and his legend and his name will live on long after most of us here are forgotten.[10]

[1] Ibid, January 18, 1935
[2] Irish Times, January 18, 1935
[3] Ibid, January 21, 1935
[4] Waterford News, January 18, 1935
[5] Ibid, January 28, 1935
[6] Waterford News, January 28, 1935
[7] An Múinteoir, P. 13
[8] An Múinteoir, P. 13
[9] Ibid, P. 13
[10] Manus O'Riordan (1983) Portrait of an Irish Anti-fascist. See webpage http://members.lycos.co.uk/spanishcivilwar/Edwards/

 

 

Copyright © 2007 Waterford Ireland
Last modified: June 29, 2007